I had been awaiting Grandia's release for what seemed like an eternity. For months we only had a select few screenshots and snippets of information to tide us over until something more substantial came along. Generally speaking, I suppose I'm not really a huge RPG fan. Sure, I played and loved Zelda III on the Snes, but apart from that and a tentative amount of time spent upon the likes of Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and even Final Fantasy VII, I found it difficult to really sink my teeth into this particular genre. I'm not sure why, but Grandia has always possessed a form of mystique and aura to me. I eagerly awaited the release of gaming magazines in the hope of more screenshots and maybe even some information regarding the storyline. I never thought for one minute that Grandia wouldn't be receiving an official release on these shores. However, I have now had the game for a considerable amount of time and have recently completed it.
I haven't been disappointed one little bit I'm proud and thankful to say. Ok, the texts in Japenese and I won't try and deflect the fact that this has caused a few problems. There are swathes of writing for even the most insignificant character, but as long as you're prepared to be patient and use a little common-sense to solve the not-too-difficult puzzles, you should find yourself gleaning a great deal of enjoyment from this title, as I have done.
I'll admit to being sceptical as to whether or not to purchase Grandia to begin with, I mean, how are you supposed to play a Japenese RPG when you don't have a faintest clue as to how to decipher the literal lingo? Well, the interaction between Characters basically revolves around being told where to go next and who to see. It's fortunate that you can't be penalised for selecting the wrong option when faced with a couple of things to say to someone, simple trial-and-error will see you right, I assure you. Besides, a fair amount of Grandia's humour is universal. You can work out a certain character's emotions or feelings simply by observing their facial expressions.
I must "confess" that one of the main reasons I purchased Grandia was to witness the incredible graphics first-hand. They seemed superb from what I'd observed from the gaming-press. Grandia's graphics are simply stunning. It is very difficult to convey with words exactly how acutely the many and varied environments are expressed. The town scenes especially look marvellous. The fully-polygonal landscapes allow you to zoom in and out of the action at will and even rotate the screen. This proves to be handy as many of the game's objects are hidden behind buildings, away from prying player's eyes. I have spent many an hour simply exploring, which is a strong element in the game, and marvelling at the graphics that my supposedly "humble" Saturn is producing. The only negative aspect concerning this area is that slow-down and slight pixellation does occur at some junctions. However, it's appearance is brief and doesn't infringe upon the gameplay.
The music and sound-effects are generally very accomplished indeed. Orchesta-type music prevails for the most part and is typical RPG fare. I must state that the overall atmosphere of Grandia is greatly influenced by the sound-effects created in certain places. Bridges creak as you walk over them and you can hear the sea gently lapping against the shore as you pass close-by. It is delicate touches like this that makes Grandia stand-out from the crowd and really gives you the feeling as if you're there, this is very important I feel.
Unlike Final Fantasy VII, Grandia's battles do not (frequently) jump upon you without prior warning, an aspect of the aforementioned game which I grew tired of very quickly indeed. Instead, you can actually view your opponents and choose to side-step them if you wish. It is crucial that you do not constantly duck-out of fights though, as it is important that you build up your character's strength for the tougher battles that wait ahead.
Unlike FFVII's dark and somewhat foreboding settings, Grandia, for the most part, is played in refreshing and bright places. There's probably between about 50 and 65 hours of Grandia to experience and enjoy on the dual-disk package, and enjoy it you will. You might not be willing to play through Grandia again, but realise that there are many secret areas, the opportunity to collect all the Mana eggs and the "magic" that is Grandia, waiting for you if you do.
Review By: Michael West